Every year I attend the ANZAC Day clash between Essendon Football Club and my beloved Collingwood, two traditional rivals playing in the Australian Football League. Aside from the adrenaline which pumps through my veins as I anticipate the spine tingling roar at the conclusion of our national anthem,  there is another  moment when I  must physically brace myself to contain the swirl of emotions which assail my body.  No-it isn’t in reaction to an outrageous umpiring error or a player’s costly mistake. This reaction comes long before the first bounce to commence the clash.

I know that the ANZAC Day ceremony will entail a tribute. This tribute will invariably call upon the one hundred thousand people gathered there to bow their heads as they recall the selfless sacrifice of our brave men and women.

That’s right-the brave men and women.

Being something of a history buff I wonder if perhaps the details of our female battalions who dug in at the Somme and endured the freezing conditions, slept in the mud, blood and guts of their girlfriends and charged the enemy trenches with fixed bayonets had eluded me.

I never saw footage of limbless, blind, deaf, shell shocked, facially disfigured young girls being carried or wheeled off ships as they arrived home to resume their civilian lives. Perhaps the cameras weren’t operating that day.

Yet year after year we pay tribute and give equal standing to both the men and women. How is this gross misrepresentation of the facts allowed to go on unquestioned? Of course if one was stupid enough to raise the issue at a dining table the response would be as predictable as the effects of gravity. People would screech in indignant outrage: “Our women worked in the factories, nursed and cared for the wounded and suffered the grief of losing their husbands, brothers and sons!”

Hilary Clinton’s infamous line about women being the primary victims of war comes to mind.

If a women was ever harmed in war time, particularly in World War One, it was as a result of an unexpected accident or illness. No woman ever fought side by side with the men nor were they expected to fight. Yet, I repeat-they receive the same gratitude, respect and acknowledgement as the men. It is incomprehensible and makes a disgraceful mockery of the Remembrance Day ceremonies.
A handful of men suffer from breast cancer. Can you imagine the outcry we would hear from women if all of the breast cancer awareness campaigns spoke of the dreadful devastation of breast cancer wrought upon our women and men without any reference whatsoever to the enormous statistical discrepancy in which gender is most badly affected?  It doesn’t bear thinking about. There’s no need to wonder as it would never happen.

This issue of our media never being gender specific about issues negatively impacting upon men’s lives was brought to a head for me over this weekend when a full page article on suicide titled, You’re Not Alone appeared in the lift out section of the HeraldSun.

As I greedily scanned the paragraphs, hoping I would stumble across the sentence alerting the world to the fact that the terrible tragedy we call suicide disproportionately affects our men, I quickly realised my search was a futile one.

Over 75% of suicides are committed by a male. This of course doesn’t mean we should focus solely on males, but given the disparity in the figures one would think we would be thrown a crumb of sympathy, an empathic wink or a pat on the head. Nope…nothing. No mention of men as a gender throughout the entire article. In fact the personal focus was on women who had lost a male partner and how difficult life was for them as a consequence.

On the same day as this article appeared the murder of a little boy by his mentally unstable father was receiving wall to wall coverage. Each time the story was told the announcer reminded everyone that domestic violence was a scourge which overwhelmingly affected women although a small minority of men were also victims. Suddenly it seemed very important for the public to understand that this is an issue that harms women and that is where all of our attention should be focused.

This very deliberate censorship can be found in a number of other issues which overwhelmingly affect men. I have never watched, listened to or read a media story on death and disability in the workplace which states-men are the overwhelming victims of death and disability in the workplace. In fact when the Victorian Government ran a campaign on this issue a few years ago, all of the television, radio and print advertisements referred to the Deaths of Victorians in the Workplace.

Oh- and the dead are referred to as people or workers in all of the documentation. We would never refer to the female victims of domestic violence as people or family members. We would be left in no doubt whatsoever that it was a woman who was slapped, pushed, beaten or verbally abused. Isn’t it funny how gender is of no consequence when males are dying?

When our media speak or write about our homeless-that is all we ever call them. We don’t mention the fact that 67% of our homeless roughing it on the streets are males or 75% taking shelter in boarding houses are males.  Can you imagine this percentage remaining a non issue if it were females wandering our streets and making up 70% of our homeless?

Why is this deliberate deception and censorship so prevalent in our media? One could be led to believe there is some kind of agreement in media circles that anything which could focus attention upon the hardship, loss, grief and injustice men endure is to be hidden, glossed over or ignored.
Some claim that more women are victims of family violence. Nevertheless a very substantial proportion of men are also affected. Understanding this, all domestic violence ads still focus exclusively upon women.

Men are not referred to at all, other than as perpetrators of course.

Imagine a suicide campaign with the same resources behind it as the Domestic Violence Industry has. This suicide awareness campaign would involve huge billboards, advertisements on television and a barrage of print articles in our major papers. Women would not be referred to in any way whatsoever. They would simply not exist as victims in the world of suicide. When outraged women ask why we are not concerned about female suicide they would be informed that less women kill themselves and for different reasons. Perhaps we could suggest that if they are so concerned about the plight of women who kill themselves they could start up their own movement to bring awareness to the problem.  Our focus just happens to be upon the men. That would surely soothe their indignation.

I would like this revised version of the pre-match ANZAC Day tribute to be read during the pre-match ceremony. It would go some way to addressing the rather absurd, insulting, inaccurate and somewhat deceitful insinuation that women have sacrificed as much as men throughout the many wars we have  endured.

Ladies and gentleman, could we please be upstanding as we pause and offer a minute’s silence in tribute to the courage and sacrifice of tens of thousands of young Australian men and boys who died so that we might live in a peaceful, free society. Others gave great support to our soldiers and we acknowledge the tireless work of the many nurses who took care of our men and gave them comfort in a time of need.

[Ed note: Featured image was originally posted to Flickr by NZ Defence Force at http://flickr.com/photos/56631565@N06/5650697092. It was reviewed on 7 April 2012 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.]

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